60 percent of Americans say their finances haven't improved since the 2016 election

  • Close to 40 percent of individuals polled by Bankrate.com say their personal financial situations have improved since President Trump was elected.
  • Among households earning less than $30,000 a year, 78 percent say that their financial situation hasn’t improved since 2016.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, on October 22, 2018. 
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, on October 22, 2018. 

Though the U.S. economy has improved since 2016, more than 60 percent of Americans say they have yet to see an improvement in their own wallets.

In all, 45 percent of 1,001 individuals polled by Bankrate.com said their finances have been "about the same" compared to two years ago.

Another 17 percent said their finances have worsened since then, Bankrate.com found.

The personal finance website conducted its survey via telephone in late September. The margin of error is 3.72 percentage points.

The news comes amid an improvement in the economy over the last two years. For instance, average hourly earnings are up, reaching $27.24 per hour last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's a 5 percent increase from the average hourly wage of $25.88 in October 2016.

See below for additional data points comparing the state of the economy from just prior to President Donald Trump's election in November 2016 up to September 2018.

Trump then vs. now

Click to edit
Pre-election (10/16)
Through 9/18
Nonfarm employees (millions) 145.1 149.5 4.4
Unemployment rate 4.90% 3.70% (1.2) pp
Labor participation rate 62.80% 62.70% (0.1) pp
Avg hourly earnings $25.88 $27.24 5%
Consumer confidence 101 138 37
NFIB Small Biz Optimism 95 108 13
ISM manufacturing 52 60 8
Corp tax rate 35% 21% (14) pp
Budget deficit (% of GDP) 2.90% 3.8% 0.7 pp
Federal debt ($ trillion) $19.80 $21.5) 9%
Assets held by the Fed ($ trillion) $4.52 $4.22 -6%
S&P 500 2,126 2,810 32%
S&P EPS $117 $140 20%
S&P 500 fwd P/E 17X 16.3X (0.7X)
Nasdaq 100 4,861 7,178 48%
Fed funds rate 0.30% 2.20% 187 bp
10-year Treasury yield 1.80% 3.10% 121 bp
Source: FactSet, Haver Analytics, and Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research

Nevertheless, not all Americans are feeling buoyed by the improving economy.

"There's room for the rising tide to do some more lifting," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

An income divide

Low-income households are among those seeing the least improvement in their finances over the last two years, Bankrate.com found.

Among those earning less than $30,000 a year, 78 percent said that their financial situation hasn't improved. Nearly 30 percent said that they are worse off than they were two years ago.

On the other hand, Americans earning at least $75,000 annually are more upbeat. Of those individuals, 54 percent said that they are feeling better about their finances.

Just over a quarter of them said their finances are "much better" than they were two years ago.

"No matter what the emotions and the volatility might be with respect to the political environment, we need to stay away from acting on emotions when we manage our finances." -Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst, Bankrate.com

Wealthier individuals were more likely to benefit from both the improving stock market and the tax cuts, Hamrick said.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect this year, trimmed down income tax rates overall, did away with personal and dependent exemptions, and roughly doubled the standard deduction.

"Some income gains we have seen tended to be distributed at the lower and higher ends, but my thought is that that's not enough to compensate for the tax cuts and the market gains," Hamrick said.

He also noted that families that are poorer have a longer way to go before they begin to see improvements in their finances.

"There's more ground to make up for someone who is economically disadvantaged versus someone who is either on the margin or above," said Hamrick.

Focus on yourself

MoMo Productions | Getty Images

Economic improvements aside, the best move for families is to step back from the political environment and strengthen their finances.

"Politics come and go, and economic cycles are going to be what they are, but try to remain focused on your personal financial goal," Hamrick said. Here are a few suggestions.

Build your emergency fund: Stash away at least six months' worth of expenses so that you can cover surprise costs or get yourself through a period of unemployment.

Put money away for retirement: The more you earn, the greater flexibility you have to save in your 401(k). However, even if you can't max out your annual contributions at $18,500 (plus $6,000 if you're over 50), put away at least enough to get the employer match.

Be mindful of your time horizons: Money you won't need for another 20 or 30 years — like your 401(k) plan balance — could be subject to short-term market volatility. Ride it out, said Hamrick. Be cognizant that money you need in the short term might be better allocated more conservatively.

"No matter what the emotions and the volatility might be with respect to the political environment, we need to stay away from acting on emotions when we manage our finances," Hamrick said.

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